KNOXVILLE — Tennessee football coach Derek Dooley didn't want the steady rain, the hangover from his team's disappointing and painful loss to Florida or the upcoming opponent to mar Tuesday morning's practice.
So after the Volunteers completed their stretching, Dooley gathered his players around him and issued them a wake-up call.
He did it with some emphasis, too.
"Just resetting them for the week," he said after the Vols responded with an energetic workout to begin their preparation for Saturday's game against Akron. "It's always hard when you come off a loss like that to refocus on what's next, so I didn't want to start off practice the wrong way.
"The important thing is, number one, accepting responsibility for everything that happens in your life ... and two, valuing the journey of self-improvement and what I can do to help the team. If our focus is on that, we're going to be fine."
Dooley's challenge for the week is making sure there are no lingering effects from Tennessee's loss to Florida last week, and the imploring he did Tuesday had an effect.
"He said we were pretty quiet out there," senior cornerback Prentiss Waggner said. "We've just got to do something to fire us up before practice. I think the fire pretty much got started."
Tennessee began its installation and game-planning for first-year coach Terry Bowden's pass-happy Zips on Tuesday.
"We had a great practice, probably one of our best Tuesday practices we've had as far as energy level and tempo," quarterback Tyler Bray said.
With Brian Randolph watching on crutches from the sideline with a torn knee anterior cruciate ligament on Tuesday, Brent Brewer continued to work as a No. 1 safety alongside Byron Moore. The junior is a 14-game starter, so experience isn't a question, but both Brewer and Moore must help fill Randolph's role of defensive quarterback.
"I definitely feel comfortable," Brewer said. "I've just got to communicate out there with the younger players and get everybody on the same page. [Randolph] really knew his stuff.
"We've just got to talk. We don't have signs for everything, but we try to just talk. When everybody's on the field, everybody's got to communicate and talk so everybody's on the same page and knows what they're doing."
After making 54 tackles combined the past two seasons, the 6-foot-1, 214-pound Brewer has eight in three games this season, including some key open-field stops on third downs that forced punts.
"Brent has the capability of playing well," Dooley said. "It just so happened Byron and Brian were playing a little better than Brent. This is a good opportunity for Brent to get in there and show that he's a capable starter, and I think he's got all the tools to be that."
Perhaps no Tennessee player had a rougher night Saturday than cornerback Marsalis Teague. The senior failed to recover a fumble near Florida's goal line on the Gators' first offensive play and was flagged for a personal foul on Florida's opening second-half possession. Trey Burton stiff-armed and outran Teague on his 80-yard touchdown run, and Teague was covering Frankie Hammond on his 75-yard catch-and-run.
"Playing the cornerback position is real, real tough," Waggner said. "You're going to have some bad games, you're going to get beat, you're going to get scored on, because it comes with the territory. That's the life we live, and that's the life we had to deal with.
"He's done pretty good."
Dooley said Teague has continued with a good attitude. After playing fairly well in the first two games, the Vols' secondary struggled with Florida's speed. Waggner said he's tried to keep the group's confidence up this week.
"One thing I try to tell the guys in the room is just be a pro," he said. "In the NFL, guys lose a game and come back the next game and have great games. That's the main thing we've stressed in the DB room is being a pro on and off the field [and] in practice."
Starting right tackle Ja'Wuan James (head) dressed but did not practice Tuesday, and Alex Bullard filled in with the first-team offensive line. ... Tight end and converted linebacker Greg King also did not practice. ... Expect freshman safety LaDarrell McNeil and freshmen corners Deion Bonner and Daniel Gray to play more snaps against Akron. Dooley believes the promising trio "have a lot of ability" and hopes to see more from them. "It's a question of how quickly they can get to where they can play good, winning football for us."
Patrick Brown has been the University of Tennessee beat writer since January 2011. A native of Memphis, Brown graduated from UT in May of 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism/Electronic Media and worked at the Knoxville News Sentinel for two years on the sports editorial staff and as a freelance contributor. If it’s the NBA, the NFL or SEC football and basketball, he’s probably reading about it or watching it on TV. Contact him ...